How to get the most out of online communities and social networks
Are you a tweeter? A facebooker? A Digger? Got yourself an account but not sure how to use it to connect with your donors, members, and supporters?
As a marketer who is pretty new to social media myself here are just a few things I have learnt from my journey into the world of social media...
Create a profile, complete your biography and upload a picture.
People want to know they are communicating with real people and if you want to be taken seriously by the community, adding a little bio about yourself is an important first step. Things such as who you work for and what your interests are will all help with your introductions. It will also help with your off-line networking too as when you attend that next conference your community ‘friends’ will recognise you - helping with that all important introduction. It will particularly help if like me, you find face-to face networking slightly daunting!
- Before diving straight in – listen to the conversations
What are the current members of the community talking about? Familiarise yourself with the main community contributors and their conversations. What topics are of particular interest, what language do they use informal or formal?
Just like you wouldn’t go to a party and barge your way straight into a conversation with a group of strangers, so is the case with online communities. Introduce yourself and engage in some two-way conversations. People will notice and you will benefit in the long term from this extra time spent getting to know the community in the first instance.
- Be genuine and authentic
Online communities are just that: communities. Your reason for participating must be altruistic - to help, to share and to network. What are you passionate about? Help the community and they in turn will trust and help you.
- Be transparent and honest
If you work for an organisation and are commenting or responding on a new service or campaign they have launched, tell people you work for them. For instance on my Twitter and LinkedIn accounts I state I work for NCVO and will on occasion highlight our new events, services or publications that we offer. My networks then know I am an employee of NCVO, rather than perhaps a happy customer raving about NCVO. I’m being open that I'm a marketer - if I wasn’t the community would lose trust in me if they later discovered I was hiding this.
- Share, engage and communicate
You cannot treat marketing in social media as you would traditional advertising. Traditional advertising (such as email marketing, display ads, TV commercials) are all interruptive push messages which you control.
In social media the community, your prospects and network own the community and messages. If all you do is blindly ‘push’ messages to them without any real engagement or genuine desire to share and help, you will soon lose trust and ‘followers’ within the community. Network, share, help and engage with your community.
- Oh and just a reminder - give, give and give again
If you are using social media to simply push your own agenda and messages, then people may listen for a while, but they will soon switch off, ignore you and perhaps even block you. It’s not about ‘me, me, me’ but ‘you, you, you.’ Establish yourself as a valued contributor. Answer questions, share that great article you have just read, yes talk about your organisation and what you can offer, but don’t let this be your sole purpose for participating. Remember in social media the customer, your prospect ‘controls’ the community and the message, and overt marketing will not be accepted by most communities.
With the launch of our new online communities here at NCVO, why not get yourself signed up and start discussing, learning and debating with your fellow members?
What do you think? I'd love to hear back from you all.
p.s if you are on Twitter you can find me at www.twitter.com/clairerollo.
Other recent blog posts...
Is participating in social media of value to organisations?
How social networks are enabling us to create a true dialogue with our customers and supporters
How can we measure Return on Investment’ (ROI) on our participation in social media?
New to writing copy? Seven top tips to guarantee responses to your direct marketing.
Like this? Read more
Claire Rollinson, former Enterprise Manager, discusses all things marketing.